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Death on the Nile  
Death on the Nile First Edition Cover 1937.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Robin Macartney
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date November 1 1937
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 288 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN NA
Preceded by Dumb Witness
Followed by Appointment with Death

Death on the Nile is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on November 1, 1937[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year.[2][3] The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6)[4] and the US edition at $2.00.[3]

The book features the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The action takes place in Egypt, mostly on the Nile River.

Contents

Plot summary

Linnet Doyle and her husband, Simon Doyle are in Egypt to celebrate their honeymoon. Simon Doyle was once engaged to Linnet's best friend, Jacqueline De Bellefort. The Doyles board the S.S. Karnak for a trip along the Nile River along with many other passengers. They are novelist Salome Otterbourne and her daughter, Rosalie; Mrs. Allerton and her son, Tim; Linnet's American lawyer and trustee Andrew Pennington; Linnet's maid Louise Bourget; American socialite Miss Van Schuyler and her niece Cornelia Robson; Miss Schuyler's nurse Miss Bowers; a mysterious man named Mr. Ferguson; the archeologist Signor Richetti; the silent man James Fanthorp; the Austrian Dr. Bessner; and Jacqueline De Bellefort. Also on board is the detective Hercule Poirot.

Jacqueline has been stalking Linnet and Simon since they were married, which has made them very angry. One night, Jacqueline De Bellefort tells Poirot she wants to kill Linnet and Simon. The day before, when everyone was visiting an Egyptian ruin, a boulder nearly fell on Linnet's head, but luckily it missed. Poirot, Linnet and Simon think Jacqueline is to blame, but they later find out she was on the boat the whole time and could not have done it. Poirot meets his friend Colonel Race, who is joining everyone on the boat for the return trip. Race tells Poirot that one of the passengers is a deadly criminal who has murdered many people before. That night on the boat, Jacqueline gets into a drunken rage, takes out a pistol, and shoots Simon in the leg. Simon insists that Jacqueline be cared for before him, and so the other two people present, Cornelia Robson and Fanthorp, take her back to her cabin. They call Dr. Bessner, who tends to Simon (who has also opened the window) and stays with him all night. Nurse Bowers stays with Jacqueline all night. Later, Fanthorp tells Bessner the gun is missing.

The next day, Linnet is found dead with a bullet in her head. When Poirot investigates, he finds a big "J" on the wall. Later, Poirot notices two bottles of nail polish in Linnet's room. One of the nail polish bottles is labeled "Cardinal", a deep, dark red. The other bottle was labeled "Rose", which is a shade of pale pink, but the few drops remaining in the bottle were not pale pink, but a bright red paint. He also sees Linnet's pearls are missing. Poirot then interviews all the passengers. He finds many of them heard a splash and someone running during the night. Miss Van Schuyler tells them that she heard a splash and saw Rosalie Otterbourne throw something into the water. Rosalie says she never left her cabin and didn't throw anything overboard. Louise Bourget tells Poirot how she might have seen the murderer if she had done certain things, which makes him suspicious. Poirot concludes that, despite being the prime suspect, Jacqueline could not have killed Linnet since she was accounted for all night. Poirot thinks someone saw Jacqueline shoot Simon, and used that opportunity to kill Linnet and frame Jacqueline. The gun is found overboard, which confuses Poirot, since if someone was trying to incriminate Jacqueline they would have left her gun in the cabin.

Slowly, Poirot begins to deduce what happened during the night. He realises that Rosalie was actually throwing some of her alcoholic mother's stash of drink overboard. He suspects Rosalie saw someone leave Linnet's cabin, but she says she did not. During lunch, Race tells the passengers that everyone will be searched in order to find the missing pearls. Nurse Bowers gives the pearls back, and tells Poirot Miss Van Schuyler took them, because she is a kleptomaniac. However the pearls are soon found to be fake. Louise Bourget is found murdered in her cabin holding on to some money, and it is deduced she was trying to blackmail the murderer. Poirot and Race enter Dr. Besser's cabin and tell the doctor and Simon what happened. Salome Otterbourne enters and says she knows who killed Linnet and Louise. Simon yells at her to tell him. Before she can finish her story, she is shot from behind and killed. Almost everyone on board comes to the cabin to see what the noise was, with Tim being the first to arrive. Poirot recognises the dropped gun as Andrew Pennington's, who is not in attendance. Poirot asks to meet with Pennington in an hour but first he meets with Tim. Poirot reveals it was Tim who stole the pearls. Tim had an accomplice in England make a fake copy of the pearls and switched them when he stole the real ones. Tim does not know if Linnet was already dead when he did this, although he does not remember her breathing. It was Tim who Rosalie saw, but Rosalie did not tell anybody because she thought they would suspect Tim of being the murderer and she has come to love him. Poirot says he will not tell the police that Tim stole the pearls, and lets him marry Rosalie.

When Poirot meets with Pennington, it is revealed that Pennington stole some of Linnet's money, and was trying to get Linnet to sign papers to free Pennington of any crime. Pennington found that Linnet reads papers in such detail that she might find out what Pennington did. Pennington learned that Simon does not read legal papers at all, and just signs them. Pennington tried to kill Linnet with the boulder so that he could deal with Simon instead, but was unsuccessful. But Pennington tells Poirot he did not shoot Linnet, and Poirot agrees with him. Further revelations are also made. Fanthorp is revealed to be from a law firm that suspected Pennington of his crimes, and came on the boat so that Linnet would not sign the papers (earlier he had distracted Linnet's attention just as she was about to sign them). Mr. Richetti is revealed to be the criminal Race is after, after Race hears of a telegram Richetti received filled with code words giving Richetti instructions.

Poirot tells Race he pretty much knew the how the murder was actually committed earlier, but wanted to deal with other issues like the pearls and the boulder before he told anyone. Finally, he tells Race, Miss Robson, and Dr. Bessner about the murderers. His whole theory about someone overhearing the confrontation was false, which is why he could not figure out the truth for a while. Jacqueline and Simon were in it together. Jacqueline pretended to shoot Simon, and then while everyone was preoccupied with getting Jacqueline back to her cabin, because of the insistence of Simon, he took the gun, shot Linnet, then shot himself in the leg, and threw the gun overboard before anyone came back. When Dr. Bessner examined him, it appeared he was really shot by Jacqueline. He had used some fake blood earlier, and disposed of it in the nail polish bottle in Linnet's room. Simon got the hint Louise gave about knowing the murderer, and sent Jacqueline to kill her. When Mrs. Otterbourne told Simon she knew the murderer, Simon yelled for her to start at the beginning to give Jacqueline enough time to overhear him, get the gun, kill Mrs. Otterbourne and return to her cabin. Simon and Jacqueline were planning to marry, as they both were still in love, and they would live a life of luxury together with Linnet's money. Jacqueline tells Poirot that the murder was Simon's idea but she planned it, knowing Simon was not smart enough to pull it off by himself. As everyone is leaving the ship, Jacqueline takes a second pistol and kills both herself and Simon. Miss Robson accepts Dr. Bessner's proposal of marriage, to the dismay of Mr. Ferguson, who had been courting her the whole trip.

Literary significance and reception

The Times Literary Supplement's short review of November 20, 1937 by Caldwell Harpur concluded, "Hercule Poirot, as usual, digs out a truth so unforeseen that it would be unfair for a reviewer to hint at it".[5]

In The New York Times Book Review for February 6, 1938, Isaac Anderson concluded after summarising the set-up of the plot that, "You have the right to expect great things of such a combination [of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot] and you will not be disappointed."[6].

In The Observer's issue of November 14, 1937, "Torquemada" (Edward Powys Mathers) started off by saying, "First this week comes Agatha Christie. She scored, I contend, two outers in her last three shots; but she is back on the very centre of the bull with Death on the Nile." He summarised the set-up of the plot and then continued, "Terrible things happen and, without the formality of breaking off her narrative to issue a challenge, the author allows Poirot to summarise his clues in one compressed paragraph sixty pages from the end. It is after that, until the retired but by no means retiring little Belgian chooses to tell us the truth, that we are very angry with ourselves indeed. When he does so, anger is swallowed up in admiration. The appearance of corpse after corse in the feast of death is entirely logical, and the main alibi, unshakeable except for Poirot, is of the first brilliance. It is no less likely than the run of such things in fiction, and is built not with many preliminary falsifications but almost in a single carefully premeditated flash of movement." He concluded, "Though less than secondary, the descriptive work is adequate and hits, as it were, the Nile on the head."[7]

The Scotsman of November 11, 1937 said, "An Agatha Christie story, and especially one with Hercule Poirot applying his 'little grey cells,' is always an event. It is a matter of opinion whether this author has a superior in giving an unexpected twist to concluding chapters, but it is arguable that she has none. In Death on the Nile, however, the solution of the mystery does not come with all that sudden shock of surprise to which Agatha Christie 'fans' are accustomed. At least it should not, providing that one carefully reads a certain chapter and is willing to pursue to their ultimate implications certain hints dropped by Poirot. Whether or not the reader will succeed in naming the murderer, by which is meant discovering how the crime was committed, and not just guessing at one of the least likely persons, is another matter. In any case, here is a problem eminently worth trying to solve." The review finished by saying that, "the author has again constructed the neatest of plots, wrapped it round with distracting circumstances, and presented it to what should be an appreciative public.[8]

E.R. Punshon of The Guardian in his review of December 10, 1937 began by saying, "To decide whether a writer of fiction possesses the true novelist's gift it is often a good plan to consider whether the minor characters in his or her book, those to whose creation the author has probably given little thought, stand out in the narrative in their own right as living personalities. This test is one Mrs. Christie always passes successfully, and never more so than in her new book." He went on to summarise the more outlandish traits of some of the characters and then said, "each and all of these, as well their more normal fellow-passengers, are firmly and clearly sketched, even if they are all a little too much types rather than characters and so miss that full rotundity of life a Dickens or a Thackeray can give." He finished by saying that, "M. Poirot's little grey cells had indeed been obliged to work at full pressure to unravel a mystery which includes one of those carefully worked out alibis that seem alike to fascinate Mrs. Christie and to provide her with the best opportunities for displaying her own skill. A fault-finding critic may, however, wonder whether M. Poirot is not growing just a little too fond of keeping to himself such important facts as the bullet-hole in the table. If he is to enjoy all, a reader should also know all."[9]

Mary Dell in the Daily Mirror of November 11, 1937 said, "Agatha Christie is just grand. Usually if you get a good plot there is something wrong with the writing or the characters. But with her – you have everything that makes a first-class book."[10]

Robert Barnard: "One of the top ten, in spite of an overcomplex solution. The familiar marital triangle, set on a Nile steamer. Comparatively little local colour, but some good grotesques among the passengers – of which the film took advantage. Spies and agitators are beginning to invade the pure Christie detective story at this period, as the slide towards war begins."[11]

References to other works

  • Death on the Nile is also the title of a short story by Christie published in 1934 in the volume Parker Pyne Investigates. Apart from the setting and title, the stories are not similar.
  • In Chapter 12, Miss Van Schuyler mentions to Poirot a common acquaintance, Mr Rufus Van Aldin, who is known from The Mystery of the Blue Train.
  • In Part II, Chapter 21 of the novel, Poirot mentions having found a scarlet kimono in his luggage. This refers to the plot in Murder on the Orient Express.

Film, TV and theatrical adaptations

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Murder on the Nile

Agatha Christie adapted the novel into a stage play which opened at the Dundee Repertory Theatre on January 17, 1944[12] under the title of Hidden Horizon and opened in the West End on March 19, 1946 under the title Murder on the Nile and on Broadway on September 19, 1946 under the same title.

Kraft Television Theatre

A live television version of the novel under the name of Murder on the Nile was presented on July 12, 1950 in the US in a one-hour play as part of the series Kraft Television Theatre. The stars were Guy Spaull and Patricia Wheel.

Death on the Nile (1978 film)

The novel was adapted into a highly-successful feature film, released in 1978 and starring Peter Ustinov for the first of his six appearances as Poirot.

BBC Radio 4 adaptation

The novel was adapted as a five part serial for BBC Radio 4 in 1997. John Moffatt reprised his role of Poirot. The serial was broadcast weekly from Thursday, January 2 to Thursday, January 30 at 10.00am to 10.30pm. All five episodes were recorded on Friday, July 12, 1996 at Broadcasting House.

Adapator: Michael Bakewell
Producer: Enyd Williams

Cast:
John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot
Donald Sinden as Colonel Race
Amanda Barton-Chapple as Jacqueline de Bellefort
Robert Daws as Simon Doyle
Elaine Pyke as Linnet Ridgeway
Rosemary Leach as Mrs Allerton
Nicholas Boulton as Tim Allerton
Shirley Dixon as Mrs Otterbourne
Irene Sutcliffe as Mrs Van Shuyler
Teresa Gallagher as Cornelia
Stratford Johns as Pennington
Joanna Monro as Joanna Southwood
Sean Baker as Monsieur Blondin
Ed Bishop as Rockford
Roger May as Fanthorp
Keith Drinkel as Dr. Bessner
Robert Portal as Ferguson
Ioan Meredith as Richetti
Janet Maw as Miss Bowers
with Timothy Bateson, Chris Palvo, Christopher Scott and Ben Thomas

Agatha Christie's Poirot

Death on the Nile, a television adaptation shown in 2004 in the series Agatha Christie's Poirot, starred David Suchet as Poirot. This version remained largely faithful to the novel except for a few minor changes, for example - the romantic pairing of Tim Allerton and Rosalie Otterbourne: instead of the pair ending up happily together, Tim gently refuses her, it being implied that he is either homosexual or having a sexual relationship with his mother. Some characters were omitted.

PC adaptation

Death on the Nile was turned into a "hidden object" PC game, Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile, in 2007 by Flood Light Games, and published as a joint venture between Oberon Games and Big Fish Games.[13] The player takes the role of Hercule Poirot as he searches various cabins of the Karnak for clues, and then questions suspects based on information he finds.

Graphic novel adaptation

Death on the Nile was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on July 16, 2007, adapted by François Rivière and Solidor (Jean-François Miniac) (ISBN 0-00-725058-4). This was translated from the edition first published in France by Emmanuel Proust éditions in 2003 under the title of Mort sur le Nil.

Publication history

  • 1937, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1, 1937, Hardback, 288 pp
  • 1938, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1938, Hardback, 326 pp
  • 1944, Avon Books, Paperback, 262 pp (Avon number 46)
  • 1949, Pan Books, Paperback, 255 pp (Pan number 87)
  • 1953, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 927), 249 pp
  • 1960, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 253 pp
  • 1963, Bantam Books, Paperback, 214 pp
  • 1969, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 318 pp
  • 1970, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 318 pp
  • 1971, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 466 pp ISBN 0-85-456671-6
  • 1978, William Collins (Film tie-in), Hardback, 320 pp
  • 2006, Poirot Facsimile Edition (Facsimile of 1937 UK First Edition), HarperCollins, September 4, 2006, Hardback, ISBN 0-00-723447-3

The book was first serialised in the US in The Saturday Evening Post in eight instalments from May 15 (Volume 209, Number 46) to July 3, 1937 (Volume 210, Number 1) with illustrations by Henry Raleigh.

References

  1. ^ The Observer October 31, 1937 (Page 6)
  2. ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 86) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  4. ^ Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
  5. ^ The Times Literary Supplement November 20, 1937 (Page 890)
  6. ^ The New York Times Book Review February 6, 1938 (Page 18)
  7. ^ The Observer November 14, 1937 (Page 7)
  8. ^ The Scotsman November 11, 1937 (Page 15)
  9. ^ The Guardian December 10, 1937 (Page 6)
  10. ^ Daily Mirror November 11, 1937 (Page 24)
  11. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 192). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743
  12. ^ University of Glasgow page on play
  13. ^ http://www.bigfishgames.com/download-games/1521/agathachristiedeath/index.html?afcode=afd64f20f3f8

External links


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